Monthly Archives: March 2014

Indonesian-style Ham Stir-fry

Remember my blog about the cider-braised ham? I briefly mentioned the “Lucky Leftover” recipes that accompanied that article. Our braised ham was several pounds smaller than the 8-10 pounder indicated in that recipe and we still had enough meat for two leftover dishes and a hambone for soup. So we made the Indonesian-style Ham Stir-fry just days after the main menu, then froze the rest of the meat and the bone for later use.

Spicy and sweet, this quick stir-fry dinner needed only short-grain sticky rice to complete it. And once again, we found a winner!


  • 3 Tbs. kecap manis
  • 2 Tbs. plain rice vinegar
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. sambal oelek
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 6 medium scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh lemongrass
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces (2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into medium dice
  • 3/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1-1/2 lb. leftover ham, glaze removed and cut into medium dice (4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup lower-salt chicken broth

TIP: If you don’t have or can’t find keycap manis (and we couldn’t), a syrupy Indonesian soy sauce, you can substitute 1-1/2 Tbs. soy sauce combined with 1-1/2 Tbs. unsulfured molasses.



  1. Whisk the keycap manis (or your substitute), vinegar, and sambal oelek in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat a 14-inch wok or heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then swirl in the oil. Add the scallions, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry until softened, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the green beans, bell pepper, and peanuts and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the ham and stir-fry until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in the broth, scrape up any browned bits, and bring to a boil.
  6. Pour in the kecap manis mixture and stir-fry until bubbling and the ingredients are thoroughly coated in the sauce, about 2 minutes.
  7. Serve over hot rice.

Asian Ground Pork and Spinach

Recipe from April-May 2014 issue of Fine Cooking

Dish of the Asian Pork with Spinach.
Dish of the Asian Pork with Spinach.

The day we made this little gem for dinner we had been on an Asian kick all week. On top of the fact that we had every ingredient on hand, it looked like a real easy recipe to whip together for a quick mid-week meal. And one user review that I came across suggested doubling the sauce ingredients if you like lots of sauce, and we do, so we did! In the end however we used about 50% more, so the next time I would increase the sauce ingredients by half.


  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 10 oz. (10 packed cups) baby spinach
Package of Asian rice noodles and the premixed sauce.
Package of Asian rice noodles and the premixed sauce.


  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 lb. ground pork and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spatula, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and sesame oil in a small bowl.
  3. Add 2 Tbs. of the dressing and, in two batches, the spinach to the skillet. Cook, tossing often, until the second batch is wilted, about 1 minute.
  4. Remove from the heat, toss with the remaining dressing, and serve.

And since I always like a little kick to my meals, I sprinkled some crushed red pepper on my portion, but Russ liked his without. I think if you wanted to add a sweet note, you could add about a Tbsp. of brown sugar to cut the vinegary taste.
Let me know if you make this dish and if you add your own twist.

Salty fish sauce and tangy lime juice are balanced by toasty sesame oil in an irresistible dressing that coats lightly wilted spinach and ground pork. Serve over rice or rice noodles for a standout dinner.

Francisco’s on the River

In a previous blog about Mamita’s restaurant in Newtown, PA, I mentioned two other restaurants owned by the same chef, Francisco Argueta. On Valentine’s Day we had reservations at “Francisco’s On the River” which is his newest BYOB in Bucks County, PA on River Road along the Delaware River between Washington’s Crossing and New Hope. It is in a bucolic woodland setting with a glass enclosed front porch allowing you a panoramic view of the river. If you are a big fan of wonderful southern Italian fare and charming romantic views, you’ll probably fall in love with, and maybe at, Francisco’s.

It’s difficult not to sound too effusive when telling about our fabulous experience at Francisco’s. One of my favorite entrees is Linguine al Frutti di Mare Fradiavolo: shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels & fresh fish sauteed in olive oil, garlic & crushed red peppers, finished with white wine and a splash of red sauce. Personally not a fan of mussels or clams, they substitute more shrimp and scallops in place of the mollusks. And you absolutely have to try their house special Whole Wheat Garlic Bread, simply scrumptious!

Shown here, one side of the special two-sided menu.
Shown here, one side of the special two-sided menu.

The Valentine’s menu was altered slightly for the holiday. Some of their regular salads, appetizers and entrees from the original menu were still an option, but it was exciting to see some tempting alternatives. Russ started with probably the most flavorful Lobster Bisque I have ever tasted with large chunks of lobster floating in the creamy bisque. For his main menu, he selected the Zucchini Crusted Crab Cake with spinach risotto and a citrus sage berre blanc. My favorite entree was not an option so I chose the Filet Mignon topped with lump crab meat and herbed butter — perfectly done to a medium rare.

A basket of their famous whole wheat garlic bread.
A basket of their famous whole wheat garlic bread.

We experienced a couple of irksome issues this last visit. First, we did arrive about 15 minutes early and had to wait crammed into their miniscule vestibule with several other customers and when we were led to our table, they seated us stuffed into a corner right next to the foyer which became drafty when the entrance door opened – not a welcome occurrence on a cold February night! The second irritation was the whole wheat garlic bread we ordered as soon as we sat down, had been given to other patrons and we had to reorder and therefore wait an unusually long time to get the bread. Due to the mix up our waitress did not charge us for the order.

Zucchini Crusted Crab Cake with spinach risotto and a citrus sage berre blanc.
Zucchini Crusted Crab Cake with spinach risotto and a citrus sage berre blanc.
Filet Mignon topped with lump crab meat and herbed butter.
Filet Mignon topped with lump crab meat and herbed butter.
Francisco's lasagna, bolgnese flavored with porcini mushrooms, smoked bacon and topped with mozzarella cheese and their red sauce.
Francisco’s lasagna, bolgnese flavored with porcini mushrooms, smoked bacon and topped with mozzarella cheese and their red sauce.

For some reason my camera was not up to par that evening (it too may have been feeling the draft), so the pictures aren’t up to my usual standards, sorry.

The waitstaff is awesome, the food exceptional, and the experience top notch (except for the two glitches this time around.) Reservations are highly recommended, especially on weekends.

Kimchi Stew


While thumbing through my AARP magazine (keep your comments to yourself), I came across an article “It’s Not About the Meat,” in which Molly Katzen was highlighted and this got my attention because I knew she was the author of the infamous Moosewood Cookbook. Included in the story was a recipe for Kimchi Stew, making it a perfect fit for our Meatless Mondays.

Gratifyingly thin slippery noodles, firm tofu, ever-so-slightly crunchy cabbage, earthy mushrooms, and hot and sour kimchi make this a sensuous, even mysterious “texture-fest.” It stores and reheats well, adding an always-welcome convenience factor. (Therefore good for lunches in the following days.)

Commonly and inexpensively available in most Asian grocery stores are bean thread, aka “cellophane,” noodles. They are a great convenience for a weekday meal because they cook up quickly. You will find there are numerous types of kimchi. Some are hotter—also some are sweeter—than others; with flavor characteristics usually indicated on the label. Taste around to discover your preferred brand. Not surprisingly, I like the hot kind. Take heed when opening the jar because it is fermented (and still active) and it’s a lot like opening a bottle of beer or champagne, creating its own little celebration. In other words, do this over the sink.

The various ingredients prepped to make the Kimchi Stew.
The various ingredients prepped to make the Kimchi Stew.


  • 3 to 4 ounces uncooked bean thread noodles
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (roasted or plain) – or grapeseed oil
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 8 ounces very firm tofu, cut into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon salt (possibly more)
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, stemmed if necessary and quartered
  • ½ pound savoy (aka Napa) cabbage, in thin strips (4 cups)
  • 1 jar kimchi (14 ounces) – all contents


  1. Cook the noodles in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and rinse them in cold running water. Set them aside in a container of cold water until ready to use. (This keeps them separate.)
  2. Place a soup pot, large saucepan, or Dutch oven over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the oil, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the onion, shiitakes, tofu, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Keep heat to medium or slightly stronger, as you stir and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes (until the onions begin to soften.) Stir in the domestic mushrooms and another ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the cabbage and another ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir from the bottom to bring up the cooked vegetables as you incorporate the cabbage. When it looks well blended, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it stew for about 10 minutes, adding another ¼ teaspoon salt after the first 5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the kimchi with all its liquid, possibly going in with scissors to cut any too-large pieces smaller (whatever is “bite-sized” to you. It’s also okay to leave them large.) Stir to blend, then thoroughly drain and add the noodles, stirring them in with a fork. No need to cook further at this point. Taste for salt  – it might want just a touch more.
  5. Serve hot or warm, with any of the optional toppings.
    (I bet you can guess what I chose!)

Optional Toppings:

Torn cilantro leaves
A drizzle of Chinese toasted sesame oil or roasted peanut oil
A few drops of seasoned rice vinegar
Sriracha or chili oil – or another chili sauce
Red pepper flakes
Chopped, toasted peanuts or cashews
Steamed edamame (green soy beans) – really pretty on top!
Cooked green beans (thin ones- or cut lengthwise)
Strips of omelet

In the end, we both added three toppings: Sriracha sauce, roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro.